Document imaging toolkits have been around for as long as I have been covering the industry, but seemingly, like everything else in the market, they are going through a major transition. We’ve already seen the rise of HTML5-based viewing to enable cross-platform access to documents. According to SDK industry veteran Jack Berlin, president of Accusoft, the next frontier could be integrated Web-based scanning and imaging tools that can be called through Web services and used to image-enable cloud and browser-based applications.

Working towards this vision, AccuSoft recently announced a new cloud-based scanning service, aptly named Cloud Scan, as well as a new version of its HTML 5 viewer Prizm Content Connect. “Today, they are separate products,” said Berlin, “but they are coming together rapidly.”

Prizm Content Connect is typically deployed on-premise, but Accusoft also utilizes it in its cloud-based Prizm Share. AccuSoft also has a Cloud Services platform where it hosts its viewing and other technology components, like search, OCR, bar code reading, and compression, and makes them available for consumption through Web APIs. The plan is to add scanning to this platform.

“Nobody wants to just do scanning alone,” said Berlin. “The power behind Cloud Scan is its ability to be integrated with applications like Salesforce.com or Office 365. In addition to scanning, users may want to be view, redact, and manipulate their files in other ways—and we’ll have tools available for that through our Cloud Services.”

Cloud Scan was built utilizing EMC’s Captiva Cloud Toolkit. Basically, this enables the application, while running through a browser, to connect to most TWAIN and ISIS scanner drivers. “There are a subset of scanners on the market that include a service that is installed with the drivers that will enable a connection to Captiva Cloud Toolkit applications without a user having to download anything,” explained Kai Wille, EMC’s sales director for OEM/BPO/SaaS products. “For other scanners, there is a small download the user will have to execute the first time they scan through a site running the Captiva Cloud Toolkit.”

Accusoft has leveraged its ImageGear SDK to enhance the Captiva Cloud Toolkit. “We worked on the integration for months with the goal of making it easier for third parties to build Cloud Scan into their applications,” said Berlin. “The main point of the service is to be able to create a seamless scanning interface into other cloud-based applications.”

Berlin noted that ease of integration is a growing demand in the SDK market, which has led Accusoft down the path of developing more consumable services. “Developers no longer want to write soup to nuts applications,” he said. “They want plug-and-play modules with some wrapper code around them. Instead of spending 6-9 months on integration projects, they want to spend 6-9 days.

“We realized 3-4 years ago, that we were going to have to take our traditional SDK technology and make it available in more of an app format. Developers don’t want to work with the C++ or .Net code anymore. They want Python or JavaScript samples. They want to be able to plug in the technology and massage it vs. writing lots of code. You have to accommodate these demands if you want them to use your SDKs. We have to take decades of development work and make it more usable for today’s developers.

“We are also seeing more and more people who want load-based pricing based on volumes of documents or views. Per click and per scan charges are part of our future. It makes sense based on the emergence of SaaS pricing in end user applications.”

Free version provides feedback
A free version of Cloud Scan integrated to Google Drive and Dropbox is available through the AccuSoft Web site. Accusoft’s strategy of making its technology available free to consumers is not new—there is also a free version of Prizm Share
“It’s hard to make any money in the consumer market,” Berlin noted. “But the feedback is valuable. Thousands of people are running our viewing technology in Prizm Share. Our vision for Prizm Share is that a parent sitting in the stands at a soccer game should be able to log in and view and sign PDF files with their iPhone or Android. If our viewer can work for them, it should be able to work for businesses doing more sophisticated things in B2B environments.”

New features drive adoption
According to Wille, Accusoft is just one prominent entity that EMC has been in discussions with recently regarding its Captiva Cloud Toolkit. “Last fall, we introduced a new version, in which we added image enhancement and bar code reading functionality, as well as the ability to re-brand the software,” he said. “These features were introduced based on feedback we were getting from the market.

“The image enhancement and bar code reading were important for getting browser-based scanning applications to act more like thick-client applications—with cleaner images and the ability to run automatic document separation. There seems to be a perception in the market that browser-based scanning is inferior, which may be based on the performance of some other vendors’ products. Our Captiva Cloud Toolkit, for example, has always been able to run even high-speed scanners at rated speeds.”

Berlin mentioned that Accusoft intends to make mobile scanning available as part of its Cloud Services platform, and we asked if the Captiva Cloud Toolkit could enable that through mobile browsers. “The Cloud Toolkit can work with any Windows-based device,” said Wille. “So, it can run on Microsoft’s Surface, which has a USB port that could be used to connect a scanner. We have a separate Mobile SDK for developing mobile capture apps for Android and iOS devices [see DIR 1/31/14].”

For more information: http://bit.ly/AccusoftCloudScan; http://www.accusoft.com/cloud-services;http://www.accusoft.com/news_pcc10_0_release.htmhttp://www.emc.com/enterprise-content-management/captiva/cloud-toolkit.htm